The Diatonic Major and Minor Scales

     The first diatonic scales we will be looking at are the natural major and minor. Scales can be classified as being major or minor, depending on the third interval between the tonic and the mediant – a major third is associated to a major scale, and a minor third to a minor scale.

     The natural major scale is built by making sure that we have whole-steps between every other degree, exception made between the 3rd 4th and 7th 8th degrees – it corresponds to the distance between all the white keys in a piano starting with the note C:

     And this will be the framework we use to build any major scale:

C major scale


D major scale

     The diatonic minor scale is built by starting on the 6th degree of the major scale, and still using the same notes. By changing the relative position of the scale degrees, we also change where the half-steps are. In the case of the natural minor, we get half-steps between the 2nd 3rd and 5th 6th degrees. The same interval structure applies to all minor scales:

A minor scale – relative minor scale of C major built on the 6th degree


D minor scale – relative minor scale of F major

Do you like what you read?

Subscribe to the newsletter and get a free sample of the Beyond Music Theory eBook!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.